The Blob. The Success and Development of a deadly pattern…
The “Blob or Blob Booby” is a pattern that evokes strong feelings and emotions in almost every fly fisherman. It’s a “Marmite” fly that you either love or hate there is really no middle ground. However one thing that cannot be disputed is its effectiveness at catching trout on any water from small still waters to the largest reservoirs – both grown on resident fish and recent stock fish fall for it’s charms, it’s a “Must Have” pattern for all anglers and it just wont go away.
I’d like to use this opportunity to provide you with a brief history of the pattern, to explain it’s origins dating back to the early 1990’s to it’s present day forms. Patterns and materials have changed significantly and so have attitudes towards the fly. It’s now mainstream and accepted by all – even those old school competition anglers that once frowned upon the early examples of the pattern have a few modern blobs and boobies tucked away in their fly boxes!
Contrary to poplar belief the original orange blob was called “Tango” after the soft drink TV commercials in the 1990’s. A big bold and brash pattern it was first used by Lee Henfrey in matches on Draycote, Eyebrook and Rutland back in the early 1990’s to devastating effect. As it was so effective he kept the pattern totally secret for a number of years, not revealing it to anyone other than his closest ACA team mates who were also sworn to secrecy.
I was first introduced to the pattern in the spring of 1996 at Rutland Water; Dave “Curly” Docherty and I were fishing at the top of the North Arm along with 6 other boats. Everyone else appeared to be fishing nymphs and catching the occasional fish. Dave declared that he was going to fish a new pattern that he had acquired from an unknown Scottish angler who had recently visited the Midlands and been very successful on Draycote after being given a local pattern. I have honestly never witnessed a fly make such a difference. It was amazing there were often 2 or 3 fish trying to take his fly on every cast, they had simply never seen anything like it before and we knew we had something very special. I enquired as to the tying and was told it’s basically just “a big Blob of fritz on a hook”… and the common name was spawned.
I began using the pattern in matches along with my team mates, and it’s fair to say it changed the way we fished and how we were perceived by an older generation of established competition anglers.
At the time Martin Introna captained an inexperienced team of young local anglers, Craig & Iain Barr, Rob Edmunds, Richard Hearth and Chris Churm on the competition circuit under the team name of “Rutland Kingfishers”. A Coral Blob with an orange hackle that we nicknamed “Captain Scarlet” soon became our number one fly and we enjoyed some impressive results establishing ourselves on the competition circuit.
In 1998 With 4 of the team still teenagers we went on to win the House of Hardy English Final and the International Final by pulling a Coral Blob at high speed, never had such a young team won a major international fly-fishing event, it was unprecedented and it caused ripples within the competition circuit. The term “Yobs with Blobs” was coined by a national newspaper and the fly immediately developed a poor image. Simply because many of the older competition anglers wanted the pattern banned as it was not seen as traditional or imitative fly-fishing. Although young we were not Yobs, but I accept we were different from the majority of competition fly anglers at the time in that we were young, working class with a strong desire to win, and a very competitive edge. We no longer just turned up to matches like many teams for a social event we practised hard, wanted to win and approached every match in a diligent professional manner.
The blob worked because it was like no other pattern in use at the time, it provided an intense hit of colour, it’s bulky profile in the water created disturbance and pulled the fish to the cast as vibrations were felt along their lateral line. However I firmly believe that Blobs are basically updated versions of “traditional patterns” for example traditional wet flies such as a Claret Bumble, Oakhams Orange or Kate Mclaren etc, are all heavily palmered and are designed to be pulled to create a disturbance. In truth they are no different to a blob. It’s also worth highlighting that when pulling flies the anglers “work rate” is increased as you are covering more water with your casts and retrieve (compared to when fishing slowly) – you are not waiting for the fish to come to you – It is a method better suited to young, fit anglers as it is physically demanding over long periods of time.
By 2001 in was noticeable to me that the effectiveness of the orange blob was diminishing slightly, everyone was now using the pattern on the competition circuit and the fish had wised up to a certain extent due to angling pressure. I had to find something different and so came up with the original two tone cocktail blob or the “Tequila Blob” so called because it looked like a tequila sunrise cocktail – this again proved highly effective and is still the number one Blob pattern on the competition circuit.
To be effective when fishing blobs and pulling lures you must master “the hang” in some instances it will account for 80% of your days catch. Line markers allow us to control our lines and effectively fish the hang. this is especially useful as we have developed methods and now realise that blobs and micro fritz boobies can be just as effective when fished static or ultra slow – especially on spooky or pressured fish.
The Hang & Line markers
A line marker is just bright thread or floss (or a 1″ dab of tip -ex) whipped onto the fly line and superglued at approximately 13ft from the braided loop, it allows the angler to know exactly how much line he has out of the rod tip ring, when to hang and when to lift off.
The hang is simply a pause at the end of your retrieve in which you try and induce a following fish into taking your fly. As you can’t see underwater it’s essential to imagine what your flies are doing, is there a fish following etc… most anglers that fish from boats will be using a 9ft6 or 10ft fly rod so a line marker at 13ft is generally appropriate.
When the line marker hits your tip ring get ready, this is the most important part of the cast. You should not just lift off and recast or just hold the flies motionless in the water… just hanging… as the fish will often swim round then and then off without taking them.
You must induce the take – get the fish to take the fly so bounce the rod tip a little, dibble the flies in the water – the hesitant fish can be made to take the fly.
A good pair of polarised glasses will allow you will see any take before you feel it, but as soon as you feel any resistance strike firmly. I use the top dropper as an indicator, if you see your top dropper go sideways, dip or disappear again strike firmly. Do not just lift into the fish or you will loose it as the rod will absorb the take and you won’t set the hook… it’ll be on for 3-4 secs then off.
Also remember to watch your leader line and braided loop, if it suddenly straightens, moves etc, STRIKE.
Changes to Blobs and Materials
Materials have improved significantly in the last 5 years and make a huge difference to a pattern. Why do you think that the top competition anglers insist on certain products sourcing them from all over the country and then buying in bulk? It’s simply that they know the best materials make a huge difference to the effectiveness of flies and their overall catch rate, it gives them a distinct advantage.
To most anglers “Fritz” is still just a generic material, a type of modern day chenille used in fly tying that comes in a range of different sizes and colours. The general assumption is that 15mm Orange Fritz is all pretty much the same, it doesn’t really matter what brand you choose as “Fritz is Fritz” as I’ve been told on many occasions, and it’s only the price and packaging that varies.
Nothing could be further from the truth – the changes in modern fly-tying materials are probably as great as the move from glass to carbon fibre in rod building.
Fritz first came on the market in the late 1980’s as “cactus chenille” or “estaz” at the time it was a modern material and undoubtedly updated many old traditional patterns that only used fur or natural feathers – it provided an instant makeover.
However things have again changed dramatically, this old style fritz is bulky and can often mask the hook and gape so reducing the amount of positive hook-ups from takes, it lacks the intense colours now demanded by top match anglers that actually induce the take from the fish, it’s also lot less mobile in the water and doesn’t form the all important teardrop shape when pulled.
The main reasons for these failings are the fine nylon filaments in the fritz, it bulks out the material, reduces movement as they are stiff and they don’t dye exceptionally well, meaning that colours aren’t as bright and vivid as they can be – patterns tied with these materials will obviously work but just not as effectively – I think it’s worth pointing out that most fly-tying materials were originally produced for another market (ie clothing materials). They are mainstream because shrewd fly-tying manufacturers and retailers recognised that the product could also be used in fly-tying without much if any effort.
However things have changed – a number of smaller independent companies are quietly revolutionising fly-tying materials. Businesses that actually understand what anglers want, and why, and as a result are making better quality products specifically for the fly-tying market.
A material has recently revolutionised patterns on the competition circuit It’s called “ FNF Jelly Fritz” or ” FNF Block Jelly Fritz” it was created by the well known and successful Scottish International angler Kevin Porteous – his materials are designed and manufactured specifically for fly-fishing rather than being a cast off or by product from another industry. As an international angler he competes at an elite level and recognises exactly what is demanded in a material and how current products on the market could be vastly improved.
He has, in my opinion, improved Fritz beyond all recognition and produces simply the best product anywhere on the market, a micro core is now used in his products so making it thinner, fibres are bonded to the core making them more resilient and the range of colours available mind blowing.
His FNF Fritz itself uses a thinner fibre allowing him to add more fibres to the actual material but keeping the same density. The more fibres there are, the more cut edges you have that allow the fluorescence of light and colour, and more importantly he has managed to dispense with the supporting nylon fibre that bulks out the fritz. He is producing a material that is more supple, visibly brighter with more movement – it ticks all the boxes as a designer of flies and as an angler I can personally vouch for it’s effectiveness and will use nothing else.
Contrast is very important, look at the most successful lures of all time the Viva, Cats Whisker, Tequila blob etc… – they all have one thing in common – distinct changes of bright bold colours and contrast, Modern fritz allows you to create some wonderful bright contrasting colour schemes and potentially the next generation of classic patterns.
In short, modern FNF fritz is very easy to tie with, it sits well on the hook creating a slimmer, perfectly proportioned brighter and more mobile pattern that doesn’t mask the hook point even when using smaller hooks. It definitely catches you more fish, the price difference per fly is minimal we are talking pence so it’s a very easy change to justify as the benefits are so great.
To put it bluntly do you think any products made in the 1980’s are better than today’s current versions?
I re-tied all of my competition patterns in 2017 as I felt it was essential as a serious competitive angler to have the best flies available, I re-evaluated the design and dressings using only the best hooks and materials. Ensuring that the dressing is in proportion, that the gape or point of the hook is not obscured in any way by fritz or other materials, or if so is the fritz of sufficient quality to allow the material to sweep back when wet creating a teardrop shape.
The new range of Fulling Mill blobs and blob boobies are stunning, they are direct copies of my actual competition patterns brighter and bolder than all others available, they make a visual statement to the fish and will undoubtedly increase your catch rate whether a pleasure angler of serious competition angler. The new patterns, and many of the older patterns which are still super effective, have all been produced with the range of FNF fritz and they’re eye-wateringly bright colours – 100% the best competition patterns on the market in 2019. Don’t settle for cast offs anymore insist on the best commercially tied patterns available.
As a competition angler I couldn’t be without the following patterns in both blob and booby form:-
Cocktail “Tequila” Blob (Orange & Yellow)
Ham & Cheese Blob (Yellow & Pink)
The Smelly Booby (Coral and Orange)